John Wall Holiday Invitational: Top-ranked Canadian freshman Cashius McNeilly is focused on backing up the hype

John Wall Holiday Invitational: Top-ranked Canadian freshman Cashius McNeilly is focused on backing up the hype

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John Wall Holiday Invitational: Top-ranked Canadian freshman Cashius McNeilly is focused on backing up the hype

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Cashius McNeilly is ranked No. 1 among freshman in Canada. (Photo: Jason Jordan, USA Today Sports)

Cashius McNeilly is ranked No. 1 among freshman in Canada. (Photo: Jason Jordan, USA Today Sports)

RALEIGH, N.C. – Cashius McNeilly, point guard for Thornlea Secondary School (Thornhill, Ontario), was nervously excited to get to the North Carolina to play in the John Wall Holiday Invitational.

As the top-ranked freshman in Canada, according to Coast2CoastPreps.com, McNeilly uses his trips to the United States to get a true gauge on where he’s at as a player.

“The competition is just better over here,” McNeilly said. “Playing against older, better players is what helps me the most. It makes me better.”

McNeilly took his latest lesson Wednesday, as Thornlea fell to defending state champion Robinson (Concord, N.C.) and its star point guard Lavar Batts Jr. 66-47.

McNeilly managed just five points in the loss; Batts, a VCU signee, finished with 24 points and four rebounds.

“The biggest thing I learned from this game is to prepare better,” McNeilly said. “I felt like I could’ve done a better job of getting myself ready to play at this level and that’s something I’ll do headed into the next game.”

McNeilly is used to American competition, duking it out on the Under Armour Association last summer with Canada Elite. He averaged eight points per game against players three years older than him.

He was the youngest Canadian on the roster at adidas Nations and finished off the summer scoring 15 points in route to being named MVP of the Under Armour Next game in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Cashius is a big-time talent,” Thornlea coach Chris Skinner said. “He doesn’t rush things, he has a high basketball IQ and he can really shoot it. Everyone is showing interest in him right now, Duke and everybody really. He’s always playing up and that helps him get even better.”

Batts cosigned McNeilly’s potential and said with a logical progression he could be “scary” good.

“He’s special, no doubt,” Batts said. “He just needs to assert himself more and shoot more. He can really shoot it, so I’d like to see him take his shot more, but by the time he’s my age watch out.”

Still, despite all the attention and accolades, McNeilly said he’s focusing in on the process of improving.

“I still have to prove that I am everything that people hear and read about me,” McNeilly said. “I have to play up to that so I’m just working and getting better. Tournament’s like these will help, but I have to prove what I can do every time.”

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY

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